Network: Seadog hi-tech

From calculating high tides to tying a mooring hitch, the Seamaster knows how. Jason Bennetto reports
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Indy Lifestyle Online
For boat owners looking for an easy life, and a bit of oneupmanship, a new nautical computer package is about to hit the market.

No more toiling with graphs or fiddling with keyboards. The hi-tech sailor will be able to plot his or her journey, learn the laws of the sea and, most important, avoid running aground - all with a gadget that is smaller than a video-cassette box.

The Seamaster programme aims to satisfy sailors' seemingly unlimited desire for new accessories and ever increasing accuracy as to the state of the tides. The software, which costs pounds 120 plus VAT, runs on Apple's Newton Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) via a pen and touch-screen controls. Graham Turner, director of Technografix, who developed the programme, believes this has a big advantage over a keyboard because its simple "point and click" menu enables sailors to use it while on board a rolling ship in the pouring rain (all Seamaster packages come with a waterproof pouch) and with greater speed.

Mr Turner came up with the idea after becoming increasingly frustrated with the convoluted method of finding the height of the tides around our coastline.

"I'm a boating enthusiast, and calculating tidal heights was often tricky and time-consuming and either needed a book for every port, or involved spending ages doing lengthy calculations, so I thought, what could I do to make life easier?"

Technografix took about a year to develop the package, which involved licensing data from hydrographic offices around the world. Mr Turner says its big advantages are portability and speed, and the fact that you can use it while tossing about in a boat, doused with rain and seawater.

The device has three main functions. First, and probably the most useful, is the tide prediction section. This will give you details of the depths of tides at all recognised ports in the world - about 800 in Britain and continental Europe. It can calculate the height from every 15 minutes to a basic high and low tide level. There are also information for spring and neap tides. All data comes in either table or graph form and covers the next 100 years - long enough for the longest-lived seadog. In addition, there are details of local conditions such as the locations of buoys and navigation lights. Obtaining tide times involves pressing a pen on to the screen several times, and is well within the capability of most navigators or boating enthusiasts.

The second function is a digital almanac offering reams of information on seafaring law, navigation tips and terminology. For those who have forgotten the basics, it will even remind you how to tie knots. There are also details of how navigational satellites work - complete with pictures and graphics.

Finally, there is an electronic ship's log. This can be used for navigating the vessel by recording geographical reference points or signposts on screen. There's room to record weather, crew information and a diary.

Seamaster comes with a manual and two buoyant, waterproof pouches. There are three different packages: for ports in Europe, the Atlantic, and the Pacific and Indian Oceans. One costs pounds 120 plus VAT; the set of three costs pounds 220 plus VAT. Each covers between 800 and 1,000 ports. The Apple Newton costs about pounds 399 plus VAT for the basic 130 model and pounds 700 plus VAT for the much faster 2000 model.

Technografix (0171-584 8737, fax 0171-584 0688,

e-mail Technografix@dial.pipex.com). Apple's Newton Web site (http://www.apple.com)

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